The University of Iowa

Student Reflections on First-Generation Abroad: The world is waiting

May 22nd, 2013

Dear Prospective Student,

Angela Congrove in Japan

My name is Angela Congrove, and I am a Japanese major. I transferred in as a junior with two years of Japanese study under my belt, but unfortunately had to repeat second year. It had always been a goal of mine to study abroad in Japan to learn more Japanese, so I decided to catch up with my goals by doing an intensive language study during the summer of 2012.

As a first-generation student, I have always had to figure out things on my own related to college. My family is supportive and helps me as much as they can, but it has been a long and well worthwhile journey to attain my goals. None of my family had studied abroad before, and barely anyone had been out of the country. This should make me apprehensive, but on the contrary, I have grown to have a sense of wonder about exploring other countries. I have developed a lot as a person because of studying abroad. Always remember: the faculty in the study abroad department will help you as much as they can. Visit them as often as you need to. If you believe you can do it, you can! Whether it’s choosing a program, figuring out scholarship resources, or completing the nitty-gritty paper work required, you are never alone in figuring it out.

I decided to apply for the Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University Summer Gateway Program, in Beppu city, Oita prefecture, Kyushu, Japan. This is a wonderful spot for a small town girl like me to feel comfortable. The University is up in the mountains, and a twenty minute bus ride will take you downtown to explore. If you’re lucky, you will also get a fantastic mountain view or a view of the sea and the city. Beppu has many “hot spots” so to speak. The city is full of onsen and hand and foot baths that are really refreshingly hot, even in the humid summertime. The summer is also during the rainy season in Japan, so that was also fun to experience. 

The intensive language study program has four levels of study: first year, second year first half, second year second half, and third year. With lots of review before hand, the placement test was a good way to place into third year Japanese where I belonged. There is also a speaking portion which isn’t that hard either! I recommend practicing with sensei from the University in advance to make you less nervous.

Class was every morning until noon, with a few hours break and then another class in the afternoon. There are many cultural activities such as: a weekend homestay, bamboo crafting, an elementary school visit, school festivals, informal student interviews in Japanese, taiko drum interactive performance, tea ceremonies, weekend trip to Nagasaki, and joining school clubs!

Angela Congrove and other students in Japan

The hardest part about putting together my summer experience was paying for it. Fortunately, I got a few scholarships, but that didn’t cover all of my costs. I still had to pay for airfare, food, and of course souvenirs for family and friends. For these kinds of experiences, don’t be afraid to ask friends and family to donate to your education. I started an page and raised over $100, but others have raised a lot more. The best tip I can give is to start planning early! Start planning for a summer abroad experience the fall beforehand and you will be ready for anything. The global perspective you gain is worth the fight (and any money you might end up owing).

Good luck, and don’t give up! The world is waiting.

Angela Congrove